Why do I need to be informed five times in two days that US soccer player Megan Rapinoe doesn't want to meet Trump? I don’t. But there I was browsing twitter with my brain wasting precious emotional and intellectual energy processing, and sometimes internalizing, stories that have absolutely no effect on me or I on them. Because our brains crave easily-obtained information as much as it does available food...let’s go back a few million years to get a better picture.
Before we built cities and separated ourselves from nature’s dangerous animals and elements, we had to survive them, we are the descendants of those who made it. Our ancestors did not only possess the right genetic characteristics, they acquired the ability to discern and value important information. Is that a face between the trees at night? It could be a threat, should I run, fight, or hide? A family of monkeys is drinking from a lake so its water must be clean. Infected people die, I must not get cuts on my body. Information meant our survival, our brains are hardwired to seek it, and what does Twitter do? It over encumbers your mind with all sorts of information to oversaturate your brain and waste intellectual and emotional energy.
Emotional energy is mental resources spent thinking about or speculating on the stories shared on twitter. Even though most of these stories have absolutely no impact of any kind on your life, your brain wants to know about them and react emotionally to them, collecting information and unveiling relations were and are a crucial part of our survival. What information though?
Take the Belle Delphine bathwater story for example, you read that a teenage girl has managed to sell her bathwater and saliva to incels, you were outraged and invested emotionally. You didn’t have to. Unless you’re some kind of a niche-topics journalist or a psychologist you did not need to learn about Belle Delphine’s bathwater sale.
Our ancestors’ brains knew information is power, we, living in the globalized, interconnected, hyper-informed world must understand what kind and how much information will contribute to our growth, not our distraction, which is becoming a global pastime. This is a job for the upper, rational mind.
Mark Manson, the author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, makes the point that the overabundance of information is just like the overabundance of food. Back then, food was scarce, so our bodies are programmed to consume any edible thing they come across, put that programming in an age were food is dirt cheap and you get obesity and diabetes, therefore dieting was invented. Manson says we also need an information diet.
Is the information you receive via Twitter and Facebook contributing to your growth or an addictive distraction?
I, personally, don’t care about Rapinoe’s stance on Trump.